How to Write a PR Pitch

The art of turning corporate bragging into news stories.

Let me walk you through how to write a PR pitch.

Should you call or email the journalist? Calling or emailing is a hot potato where most journalists and many public relations professionals will recommend — emailing. Still, this doesn’t mean that making a phone call won’t sometimes work better.

Put it like this: If you know a) that the journalist is a “phone person”, b) that the timing is good, and c) that your pitch is urgent enough, by all means, go ahead and make a call instead.

In any case, you should write your pitch down.
Aim for no more than half a page in length.

Let’s get to writing that PR pitch, shall we?

How to Compose a PR Pitch

Start simple: Always begin by introducing yourself, clarifying your affiliation, and asking for permission to state your business.

My name is Jerry Silfwer, I work at Spin Factory, and I’m [calling/writing] on behalf of ACME Chemicals. I have a news story about chemical plants failing to meet environmental- and safety regulations. Would this be a good time to hear me out?

Already at the get-go, I’m clearly stating that I will be pitching a news story.

My actual job is, of course, to bring attention to the fact that my client has gone to great lengths to comply with government regulations. This is, however, not news.

However, what does this imply if my client is the only chemical company to comply with the new regulations? It means that all of their competitors are non-compliant. And that is news.

If the journalists agree to hear you out, go ahead and frame the conflict:

Two hundred forty-one chemical plants are operating in Sweden. According to an unpublished paper here in my hand, only 62 are living up to the new environmental regulations set forth by the government last year. In other words: 3 of 4 of all chemical plants in Sweden might be hazardous to the people living or working near them.

At this point, the journalist might be ready to jump in. How hazardous are these plants? Why are they dangerous? What kind of evidence do I have to back my claim up?

In any case, it’s time to position your spokesperson:

In light of these disturbing figures, would you be interested in getting your hands on these documents and talking exclusively with Dr Mary Samsonite at ACME Chemicals about:

— How hazardous are these plants?
— Where are these potentially hazardous plants situated?
— Why is there no governmental oversight to force them to comply?

Once again, the focus is 100% on the news story still.

Sometimes you can offer exclusivity; sometimes, you can’t. Even though I could come up with 20 relevant questions to suggest, I kept it to three to clarify the pitch.

If you get a straight no, then that’s fine. It happens. If you get a yes or a maybe, you move on with the final part of your written pitch:

If you’re interested, Dr Mary Samsonite has agreed to meet with you, and a photographer on Wednesday at 2 pm or Thursday at 10 am this week. Would any of those slots work for you?

In this fictitious example, I’m pretty aggressively suggesting a physical meeting with an added photographer, but this is all depending on the pitch and the context.1

Now, let’s look at the written PR pitch as a whole:

My name is Jerry Silfwer, I work at Spin Factory, and I’m [calling/writing] on behalf of ACME Chemicals. I have a news story about chemical plants failing to meet environmental- and safety regulations. Would this be a good time to hear me out?

Two hundred forty-one chemical plants are operating in Sweden. According to an unpublished paper here in my hand, only 62 are living up to the new environmental regulations set forth by the government last year. In other words: 3 of 4 of all chemical plants in Sweden might be hazardous to the people living or working near them.

In light of these disturbing figures, would you be interested in getting your hands on these documents and talking exclusively with Dr Mary Samsonite at ACME Chemicals about:

— How hazardous are these plants?
— Where are these potentially hazardous plants situated?
— Why is there no governmental oversight to force them to comply?

If you’re interested, Dr Mary Samsonite has agreed to meet with you, and a photographer on Wednesday at 2 pm or Thursday at 10 am this week. Would any of those slots work for you?

At this point, allow me to take us a step back and appreciate what’s going on here from the perspective of the PR client:

Preparing Your PR Pitch

No, ACME Chemicals probably never asked me to pitch a story about potentially dangerous chemical plants in Sweden:

This whole thing probably started in a conference room where the CEO was bragging to me about how they “ran the only chemical plants in the country in compliance with the government’s new stricter regulations.”

So, before pitching the reporter, here’s some of the work that I had to do to get the PR pitch into usable shape:

Step 1. When I’ve signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), I had to explain to the CEO that ACME Chemical’s regulatory excellence is excellent, but not news.

Step 2. I had to run a study for data or find a way to extract factual evidence to support and confirm the claim that zero other chemical plants in Sweden comply with the regulations.

Step 3. With confirmation, I had to talk to an expert to learn what non-compliance in this context means in terms of real risks.

Step 4. I had to vet and prepare an in-house expert spokesperson — the CEO is credible when it comes to business matters, but not matters of advanced chemistry.

Step 5. I wrote the PR pitch (and often also a press release) and got client approval. And yes, client approval can sometimes take weeks!

Do you see? In media relations, pitching the story to a journalist is not the crucial part of the job. The essential part of the job is to identify relevant corporate stories and turn them into the news. That’s where most of my effort is spent.

Some organizations find real news stories uncomfortable. If they’re adamant about only bragging about how great they are, politely suggest they take out an ad. In an ad, they’ll get to say whatever they want.

Or — and this is often an excellent option for corporate success stories — convince the organization to target a trade- or business vertical instead.

Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Prints/Instagram)

Footnotes

  1. In times of Covid-19, for example, I’m more likely to propose a Zoom interview.

.

Avatar of Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.org/
Jerry Silfwer, aka Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Communication Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

Grab a free subscription before you go.

Get notified of new blog posts & new PR courses

🔒 Please read my integrity- and cookie policy.

You and I must save the PR industry. And there's only one way forward that's fast and agile enough—online education.
Most popular